by Atiq Budhani, DO
Living in Texas means one thing’s for certain—summer will be HOT! While we take it for granted that Mother Nature will serve up plenty of toasty temperatures between now and October, we all need to remember that every year people die from heat stroke.
“Heat stroke is caused by prolonged exposure to the sun and heat,” explains Atiq Budhani, D.O., a board-certified family medicine physician with USMD Arlington South Family Medicine Clinic. “If you become dehydrated, your body is unable to sweat and prevent overheating.”
When they body’s core temperature reaches 104 degrees or higher, it’s a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Left untreated, heatstroke can damage the brain, heart, kidneys and other organs—and even cause death.
Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, headache, dizziness, confusion, rapid heart rate, loss of consciousness and even seizures. Elderly people, infants, and people who work outdoors have the biggest risk for heat stroke.
“The good news is, you can reduce your risk by taking a few simple precautions,” says. Dr. Budhani.
“You’ve heard this advice many times, but it’s really important—you need to drink plenty of fluids, every day,” says Dr. Budhani. “At least eight glasses of fluids(60 ounces) but make most of it water, to keep your body hydrated and functioning properly. If you’re going to be outdoors for any length of time, you need to up this amount—especially the amount of water you drink.”
Experts recommend drinking 24 ounces (three eight-ounce glasses) at least two hours before exercising or working outdoors. On top of that, drink and another eight ounces of water or electrolyte-rich sports drink right before you go outside.
“Be sure to continue drinking fluids while you are outdoors—even if you don’t feel thirsty,” advises Dr. Budhani.
Take regular breaks every 20 minutes or so to drink another eight ounces of water or sports drink.
“A cold soda or beer may seem refreshing, but beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine or a lot of sugar are actually dehydrating, so they’re not a good choice when you’re outdoors,” Dr. Budhani explains.
There’s a simple way you can gauge if you are drinking enough fluids throughout the day.
“Check your urine,” Dr. Budhani adds. “If it’s fairly clear that’s a good sign. Brown-tinted urine means you not drinking enough.”
Timing is everything!
It’s an old saying, but one that even applies to the time you spend outdoors. If you can, schedule your workout, sports games or lawn work during the cooler times of the day—early morning and late afternoon are best.
“Avoid the hottest part of the day, which are typically from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.,” Dr. Budhani says.
With daylight savings time in full effect until early November, it’s easy to enjoy the outdoors when the sun is lower in the sky and temperatures aren’t squelching hot.
Ditch the dark colors. Wear loose, light-weight, light-colored clothing. “Natural fibers like cotton and linen breath, and are cooler than clothing made of spandex or polyester,” Dr. Budhani adds.
Don’t forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and keep the head cooler. Dark sunglasses protect delicate eye tissue. Choose ones that block 99% of dangerous UVA and UVB rays.
Don’t forget the sunscreen.
Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outdoors. Choose one with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. “Don’t forget to reapply as needed because when it’s hot and you’re sweating, your sunscreen will sweat off after a time.”
Never leave a child alone in a car—even for a minute.
This may seem like a common-sense rule, but Texas actually leads the nation in the number of child heatstroke deaths—mainly caused when children are left unattended in hot vehicles. This year, five children have already died—including a one-year-old in Burleson on April 14. It’s a tragic scenario that can always be avoided.
“Never leave another person—especially a child—in a closed, parked vehicle,” says Dr. Budhani. “Temperatures rise quickly in closed vehicles.”
Even a mild outdoor temperature can lead to deadly consequences. According to the organization, No Heat Stroke, even if the outdoor temperature is just 60 or 80 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 125 degrees in just minutes.
“A child’s body overheats three to five times faster than an adult’s,” Dr. Budhani explains. “A child can suffer serious brain injury, organ damage, or death within minutes of being in a locked car.”
Cracking a window doesn’t help, so never leave your child unattended in a car—even if you think you are just quickly running into the grocery store for a minute.
“Follow these simple safety tips to enjoy a fun and health summer,” Dr. Budhani adds.
Atiq Budhani, D.O., is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. He completed his medical training at University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Texas.